Is There an “Upside” to a Mom’s Invisible Load?

TL;DR: No. The invisible load is not a badge of honor.
Amelia Protiva
3 min read

In a recent article published on Forbes, Kim Elsesser discusses the concept of the "invisible load" that mothers often bear within households. While the article suggests research shows that there might be some positive aspects to shouldering this burden, saying some mothers find the invisible load rewarding. However, this perspective is deeply troubling and dismissive of the real issue at hand.

To be clear: the invisible load is not a badge of honor.

It is a symptom of systemic inequality and gendered expectations. Mothers are not inherently wired to thrive on managing endless to-do lists or worrying about the mundane tasks of family life. Yet, society continues to perpetuate the myth that they alone should be the default caretakers and household managers.

The expectations of our culture on mothers bearing the brunt of invisible labor are evident in the comment section of a TikTok posted by Jaye. In her video, she outlined the market-value of the invisible work many default parents provide. Her message seemed to resonate, gaining more than 624k views and 47k likes. Still, the comments were filled with push-back and implications that she should stop complaining.

So while Elsesser’s article cites research attempting to find a silver lining in this pervasive narrative by suggesting that assuming the invisible load can lead to a sense of fulfillment and improved job performance, this viewpoint ignores the potential injustice of expecting the default parent to shoulder the majority of domestic responsibilities without complaint (or posting about it on TikTok).

What's particularly egregious is that in this take, once again, the burden of addressing and alleviating the invisible load falls back on mothers themselves. The article suggests strategies such as openly discussing mental load with partners or asking them to be involved in specific household tasks. But why should it be the responsibility of women to educate their partners or delegate daily tasks that should be shared equitably?

Recognizing the invisible load is often at the expense of women's time, energy, and emotional labor is the first step to rectifying the imbalance.

Non-default partners, regardless of gender, can take proactive steps to share the invisible mental load. Here are some concrete actions you can take:

1. Initiate open dialogue

Initiate open and honest conversations about the division of labor within the household, discussing tasks, equitable sharing, and acknowledging disparities.

2. Educate yourself

Take the initiative to educate yourself about the invisible mental load and its impact on your family dynamics. Understanding the emotional and cognitive burden associated with managing household responsibilities is crucial for developing empathy and taking meaningful action.

3. Offer specific support

Rather than waiting to be asked, proactively offer specific support in managing household tasks. This could involve taking on responsibility for certain chores or childcare duties without needing explicit instructions.

4. Regular check-ins

Check-in regularly to assess how the division of labor is working and make adjustments as needed. This ongoing communication ensures that both you and your partner feel heard and valued in the distribution of responsibilities.

5. Share the mental load equitably

Strive to share the mental load of planning, organizing, and remembering tasks equally. This may include keeping track of appointments, managing finances, and coordinating family schedules.

Let’s stop romanticizing the invisible load and start building true equity within our homes. It's not enough to acknowledge the existence of invisible labor; we must actively work to redistribute it and challenge the unhealthy gender norms that uphold it. The burden of change should not rest solely on the shoulders of women and default parents—it's a collective responsibility that requires everyone to step up and do their part.

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